Manitoba organic producers will be able to sell peas to processing giant Roquette in the 2021 season, the company announced on Oct. 28.
Interest among growers has already been high, said Glen Last, grain buyer at Roquette during a call with media.
“We’re very confident that the grower base is there,” he said.
Roquette continues to say the facility at Portage la Prairie, touted as the largest in the world, will open at the end of the year. The first loads of peas will arrive on site in six to eight weeks, said CEO Dominique Baumann.
Response to Roquette’s first call for conventional yellow peas was very positive, said Last in a news release. Some growers have indicated they’re eager to sign up for 2021 and beyond, he said.
Roquette is seeking 5,000 metric tons of organic yellow peas in the 2021 season, Last told media.
Besides meeting Canadian organic standards, the company will look for similar specs to conventional peas, which it buys as No. 2 Canada grade. Details will be hammered out in individual contracts, Last said.
The company is offering one- or two-year contracts priced according to local markets. Last indicated there would be some incentives, but didn’t specify what these were.
“Our pricing will be a sustainable level,” he said.
Between Manitoba and Saskatchewan growers, Roquette should have no trouble sourcing enough organic peas, said Laura Telford, organic development specialist with the province.
In 2019, Saskatchewan producers grew just under 45,000 acres of organic peas, and Manitoba produced about 3,000 acres, according to a report from Prairie Organic Development Fund.
Both statistics group all peas including those grown as green manures, said Telford. Actual acres of organic yellow peas were much lower.
Last estimated organic growers could produce 0.7 ton of peas per acre. Telford estimated 0.5 ton per acre, or half of what conventional growers could expect.
However, Telford suggested organic growers can easily scale up production.
“If you want it, we can grow it,” Telford said.
Organic growers love growing peas, she said. They fix nitrogen and often leave some behind for the next crop. Telford said farmers she’s spoken to saw this new market for organic peas as a great opportunity.
“I think they’re going to be really excited about this,” she said.
If Roquette offers good prices, more farmers may opt to transition acres to organic production, said Telford.
Markets have been depressed due to glut, she said. This has dampened interest in making the arduous, three-year transition to organic. To make it worth their while, producers will likely want a 100 per cent premium on their organic peas, Telford said.
Dampened prices have at least one plus, said Telford. When organic crops are double the price of conventional rather than triple, more mainstream processors like Roquette can enter the market.